20 October 2017

South Africa: Mitchell Has Something Up His Sleeve for Sharks

Blue Bulls coach John Mitchell reckons he has "something up his sleeve" for Saturday's Currie Cup semi-final against the Sharks in Durban.

The Bulls go into the match as underdogs having left it as late as possible to book a spot in the tournament playoffs, finishing fourth on the overall log as the Sharks cruised to top spot.

But there have been signs in recent weeks that, under Mitchell, this Bulls side is moving in the right direction.

Since he took over from Nollis Marais at the start of the Currie Cup, Mitchell has looked to instill a professionalism in this camp. The aim is still to play an attacking brand of rugby, but the Bulls players are perhaps beginning to believe for the first time in a while that they have reason to be optimistic.

"We do have something up our sleeve which we believe will allow us to apply pressure in a different way," Mitchell said ahead of the trip to Durban.

"If you're a betting man and you're just a layman watching both teams, you wouldn't put money on us, you'd put it on the Sharks. But I'm not a betting man."

So, what has been the secret since he arrived in Pretoria?

A few weeks ago, the Blue Bulls looked dead and buried.

"The players need to be commended for being open to change. It's been a test of their character," Mitchell explained.

"They've stayed on task and individually sought to get better. They've chased their working day and looked to nail it.

"It's apparent that we've changed our training methodology and it's a little bit stronger. Players now have a reason every day to be more professional as a result of the standards and they're starting to realise that it's a very supportive culture as well.

"I love coaching and I love players. I back my methodology ... I really believe it and I stand by it.

"At the end of the day, it's actually not about me. I'm just playing a leading role in terms of trying to guide and mentor the athletes and ultimately my responsibility is to create cohesion.

"This is not our destination. The style of rugby that we're playing has to become sustainable in Super Rugby. We acknowledge that we can get so much better and we're excited by it."

The improved mood in the squad, Mitchell said, was all down to the players themselves.

"At the end of the day the athlete determines the behaviours within the club and the trust that is built ... they've created trust amongst themselves and that's huge strength," he said.

Source: Sport24

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